The unprecedented return of a sitcom ‘Will & Grace’ revival
By Sandy Cohen
AP Entertainment Writer
As soon as Eric McCormack stepped into the old “Will & Grace” kitchen, he was Will Truman again. Debra Messing says she still feels like Grace Adler, but these days, she has to physically warm up before stepping into that persona. Megan Mullally said finding Karen again was “like riding a bike.” For Sean Hayes, rediscovering Jack McFarland was “like waking up out of a coma, maybe – a Jack coma.”
However they came back to their characters, all four actors say it’s surreal that, 11 years after wrapping its award-winning run, “Will & Grace” is making an unprecedented return to prime time with its original cast, director and creative team. Inspired by a one-off, get-out-the-vote video ahead of the 2016 presidential election, the rebirth of “Will & Grace” begins Thursday. NBC has already ordered a second season.
“It’s just nirvana,” said James Burrows, who directed all 194 episodes during the show’s original run from 1998 to 2006 and will helm all 29 of the new ones. “I’m quite elderly for this job, but it just invigorates me.”
Like the series’ stars, creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan never expected a “Will & Grace” revival. Once the finale aired, the set was shipped off to Emerson College, where it remained behind glass for a decade, and Mutchnick and Kohan moved onto other projects.
About a year ago, Mutchnick said NBC called and wanted the set back (he never found out why), and that got him thinking about the show again. The contentious campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was reaching a fever pitch, and Mutchnick came up with a sketch for the “Will & Grace” foursome.
Making that 2016 video was “the first time in 11 years that the four of us were in the same place at the same time,” Messing said. “And within 20 minutes, we were fondling each other.”
The 10-minute “Vote Honey” short quickly racked up millions of views, but a series revival still wasn’t on anyone’s mind.
“There was never ever a moment of intention to do this,” Mutchnick said from his office on the Universal Studios lot. But when NBC chief Bob Greenblatt called a few weeks after “Vote Honey” with interest in a full “Will & Grace” season, there was no hesitation.
“The weirdest thing about all of this is that it doesn’t feel weird,” Mullally said. “It just seems like, ‘Of course we’re here.’ And we just went away for the weekend and came back on a Monday. I mean, honestly, it’s crazy.”
She said it was also “freak happenstance” that all four actors were available, given that all have worked steadily since the show wrapped. Hayes and McCormack each have other full-time gigs – Hayes is a prolific TV producer and McCormack stars in the Netflix series “Traveler.” Mullally was focusing on music and recording with her band, Nancy and Beth. And Messing lives with her son in New York, though “Will & Grace” shoots in Los Angeles.
She said producers have supported her weekly returns to New York for things like parent-teacher night.